This is life! says Troy, spreading his arms wide, encompassing the tiny stage littered with advertisements and crumpled pearls of wisdom, reaching towards the slightly baffled audience. The Cardboard Metropolis is a one-act black comedy which pivots around the vacant character of Troy, a wide-eyed street kid who only speaks in advertising jingles. Around him circle the predatory characters of Jim (Alistair Faiers) and Vanessa (Natalie Rossetti), marketing executives of Corporation Incorporated, desperate to move Troy (Fergus Nimmo) from his impotent advert-worship towards the ultimate consumerist aim: buying. On the edge hovers Mr Zed, a dreamy, plum-voiced philosopher-cum-street-sweeper, who writes down pieces of wisdom that are either ignored or appropriated by Troy as yet another advertisement.Consumerism, a faltering economy, the symbolism of a city suffering from drought, all suggest a hidden political message, yet I was left struggling to find one beyond the tired cliché of consumerism isnt fulfilling us. In this dystopian future, the spiritual is just another product, and there is no alternative to consumerism; Schrodingers cat cannot escape Felix and Iams. Explanations are rarely given and sugar-sweet switches suddenly to violent aggression. At times I felt as confused as Troy looked, stranded on stage being yelled at like an abused hobbit by the previously-beguiling Jim.Although Faiers is slimily convincing as grinning advertising executive, these violent switches between positivity and anger feel laboured and unbelievable. As the play progresses however, both Faiers and Rosetti become more comfortable in the double-dealing natures of their characters. Nimmo plays the semi-lunatic worryingly convincingly, and in the interactions between Troy and Vanessa, a real claustrophobia and sense of danger is created. It is in these small moments, when the characters actually engage with one another, rather than shouting or moralising, that the play really works. At times laugh-out-loud funny, and at others totally baffling, The Cardboard Metropolis is a brave piece of new writing that ventures somewhere into the absurd.